Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, has announced she is stepping down and is expected to leave by the end of the year.
The moves comes after the group, which publishes the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and 160 local and regional newspapers, prepares to face down a potential revolt over executive pay at its annual meeting next week.
Trinity Mirror's share price has plunged 90% in the 10 years that Ms Bailey has been in charge as the newspaper industry battled declining print sales amid competition from the internet.
Ms Bailey said: "For the past 10 years I have had the privilege of being CEO of Trinity Mirror, a fascinating and all-consuming role. Newspapers are a business like no other.
"Now I feel the time has come to hand over to someone else to take up the challenge and for me to seek new challenges and opportunities elsewhere.
"My immediate priority is to continue to run the business, to deliver the best possible performance for 2012."
Trinity chairman Sir Ian Gibson said: "The company and the board are grateful to Sly for her immense contribution and leadership over an extended period and wish her well for the future."
The group reported a 40% fall in profits to £74.4 million for the year to January 1. Revenues declined 2% to £746.6 million, while newsprint costs rose. It recently warned of more tough trading ahead after it said revenues were set to fall 3% in the first quarter of its new financial year, with advertising revenues down 12%.
The closure of the News of the World following the phone hacking scandal boosted circulation revenues at its nationals division, which includes the People, by 13% in January and 7% in February.
But the recent launch of a Sunday edition of rival tabloid Sun was expected to have eaten away at some of those gains.